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Chiang Mai

CHIANG MAI
DESTINATION GUIDE

The Ultimate Guide Before You Plan for your Next Trip

The beautiful city of Chiang Mai is also known as the "Rose of the North" and that too for good reasons. Rich in history and fascinating architecture, Chiang Mai reveals a different side of Thailand which you will not find in the coastal areas of the country. With more than 300 ancient temples spread across the city, Chiang Mai will offer you a subtle sense of tranquility and peace. The temperature here is much cooler than that of Bangkok or the southern islands of Thailand and that will give you enough time to explore the town without breaking a sweat.

Attractions in Chiang Mai

From ancient ruins to picturesque national parks, Chiang Mai offers you everything that a peaceful northern town can offer.

Bo Sang Handicraft Village

The hill tribes of Chiang Mai boast their art and craft prowess and the Bo Sang village is in fact one of the perfect examples of such exhibition of talent. The handmade umbrellas and the colorful parasols sold in the Bo Sang village has now gained international recognition as you will get a chance to get buy these souvenirs at a bargain. The vibrant handmade umbrellas are really a treat to see as you can observe how delicately the villagers paint them with their own hands. Starting from the tiny and cute cocktail umbrellas to huge parasols for patio gardens, you will find many sorts of items on display here in this village market.

Chiang Dao Cave

If you are looking for an authentic northern-Thai experience then you must visit these haunting caves of Chiang Dao. The caverns of these caves stretches for kilometers but the tourists can only explore a small portion of it. The two major caves are known as the Tham Phra Nawn and Tham Seua Dao. The lower cave have electric lighting systems which makes it easier for the tourists to see inside. However, the upper cave is even more appealing as you need to carry a lantern to view the pitch dark interiors. The visit to the caves will give you an eerie appeal and it is definitely a thing you should not miss out on.

Blue Thong Sticky Waterfalls

Chiang Mai might not have white sand beaches like Phuket but nonetheless the natural beauty surrounding the old is city is simply mesmerizing. This enormous waterfall is definitely one of the most beautiful natural setting near Chiang Mai and wooded area surrounding it just adds to the appeal of this place. The real fun of this place is that you can actually walk up and experience something unique in your life. The limestone, over which the water is running, is sticky in nature and hence the name of the falls. The sticky nature of the stones will allow you to move up and down the falls to your hearts content.

Padung Village

This hill village has something unique which attracts tourists from all over the world. The ethnic hill tribes of this place are called the "Long Neck Karen" and that too for good reasons. The women of this tribal village wears a series of brass rings on their necks thereby stretching their necks up longer than a normal human being. This bizarre ritual has drawn much attention to this place as people gather here to see such a wonderful natural miracle. This age-old practice is still carried out by all of the female population of this village-starting from a little girl to an elderly women. The people here also make fascinating handicrafts and if you feel like it, you can certainly buy a couple of souvenirs.

Huay Tung Tao

A popular day-trip destination for the locals is certainly a marvelous site to explore as a tourist. The beautiful lake, up on the hills, allow you to spend a leisurely afternoon watching the birds and playing games. The ideal picnic spot for the locals and the tourists alike this place has a charm of its own. The peaceful setting has many amenities for you to enjoy and there also local shacks selling cooked fish after catching them fresh from the lake. Many cab drivers can happily drop you to the lake as this place is just 10 kilometers outside the city borders of Chiang Mai.

When To Reach

The ideal time to reach Chiang Mai is between April to October. The weather is not extremely cold during this time but you can feel the odd chilly breeze from the hill, making your stay even more thrilling. The festive months of April and May are also popular in Chiang Mai and that is beacuse the hilly regions are not as humid like the rest of Thailand. The weather remains cool throughout the year but just like other parts of the country this part of Thailand also experience heavy monsoon during June, July, and August. That is why the ideal time would be winter or autumn for traveling to Chiang Mai.

Seasonality

High Season: The high season for traveling to Chiang Mai is November to February when the temperature remains low and so is the humidity. February is also the time for Chiang Mai flower festival.


Shoulder Season: The shoulder season for traveling to Chiang Mai is April to October as the temperature remains on the lower side and the amount of rainfall and humidity is not as high as the summer months.


Low Season: The low season is definitely between March and May when the humidity is on the higher side (but not as high as the coastal areas of Thailand) but the rainfall is frequent.

How To Reach

Chiang Mai has a an international airport which will help you land directly in the city via flight. This actually helps you to save a lot of time because you can start your trip directly from Chiang Mai and do not have to come here via road. However, there are no direct flights from India to Chiang Mai but there are several connecting ones which will also drop you at Chiang Mai International Airport, in no time. The likes of Thai AirAsia, Singapore Airlines, Jet Airways, Cathay Pacific along with a plenty of other airlines flying to Thailand can help you reach the wonderful land of Chiang Mai.

Why should you go?

The historic city of Chiang Mai is known for its rich history and culture. Considered to be the second most popular destination of Thailand, after Bangkok, this city is known for its enchanting old ruins, glittering temples, exclusive animal reserves, and great natural beauty. Chiang Mai is sure to give you some peace and tranquility after a frantic time in Bangkok and it will give you a much needed breathing space. Blessed with many hills, lakes, and forestland Chiang Mai has many attractions that a tourist can enjoy. Known as the "Rose of the North" this charming old city has few of the best restaurants in Thailand and also some luxury spas.
10 Reasons to visit Chiang Mai -
  • Chiang Mai has an international airport and can be reached easily from India.
  • It is a more affordable holiday destination in Thailand offering you peace and calm.
  • Chiang Mai has a rich history and culture and there are many ancient ruins for you to explore.
  • Chiang Mai has the most ornate of villages with lush green covers and lots of flowering plants .
  • Chiang Mai has some of the most beautiful shrines and temples in entire Thailand and they comprise of a major part of the tourist attraction.
  • Chiang Mai is home to many Hill Tribes and as a tourist you can witness their age-old rituals and traditions.
  • Chiang Mai has a beautiful lake which offers a great day-trip spot for the tourists and the locals.
  • Chiang Mai also has a magnificent National Park with waterfalls and wild animals.
  • Chiang Mai has natural hot-springs which can be enjoyed by the tourists.
  • Chiang Mai offers the tourists to hand-feed animals in the form of baby tigers and leopards. There is also a butterfly park and elephant reserve for the tourists to enjoy.

Getting Around

Public transportation in Chiang Mai is fun, especially if you are traveling in a group. The steep mountainous roads and the hilly terrains do not accept the conventional mode of transportation. So, for commute you have to rely on some unique vehicles, and share the fun with the ones with whom you are bound to share the ride. Starting from Chiang Mai's very own Songthaew to tuk tuk, from rental cars to motorbike taxis, you are bound to have a bumpy ride with lots of fun and frolic in Chiang Mai.

Songthaew

Locally known as the red car this multi-passenger vehicles are found in plenty all arouns Chiang Mai. If you are traveling with a group or with your family you can hire one at an affordable to take you to the various tourist attractions.

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuks are available all across Thailand and here also they operate in plenty. This cheap mode of commute will help you reach your destination in no time. Many tuk tuks loiter around the hotel areas in search of passengers.

Motorbike Taxis

For a single or a couple of passengers there are very agile motorbike taxis. Like in Bangkok these motorbike taxis also curl and swirl in a crowded lane and help you reach your destination within minutes.

Four-Wheeler Taxis

Normal cars can also be rented in form of a cab but these are expensive affairs. However, if you are in a mood of pampering yourself or you do not want to face the hassle of traveling with many other people, you can hire a car taxi.

Weather

Like the rest of Thailand, Chiang Mai also experiences a sub-tropical climate with average temperature and heavy rainfall. However, due to the altitude the city experiences comparatively less humidity. Even during the summer months, Chiang Mai remains pleasant and comfortable for the tourists to enjoy the hilly forestland and the ancient ruins. The average temperature of Chiang Mai shuffles between 14 degree Celsius and 25 degree Celsius during winter and between 24 degree Celsius and 32 degree Celsius during summer. The month of August experiences the highest rainfall of 17 days whilst January and February being the lowest with no rainfall.

What to pack in your suitcase?

  • If you are traveling during winter then carry a light jacket and woolen garment, especially for the evenings.
  • Chiang Mai is a place which requires a lot of walking and so a heavy part of boots is necessary.
  • If you are traveling during autumn and summer then take t-shirts and regular shirts. Also carry your flip-flops with you in case you have to open them for going inside any shrine or temple.
  • Always carry an umbrella or a rain-coat when you are traveling in Thailand.
In the Spotlight

The food scene of Chiang Mai is vividly different from the cuisines of the southern states of Thailand. But saying that, Chiang Mai is also not free from its international influence as far as restaurants and cafes are concerned. With a number of fusion cafes and continental and fine dining restaurant, Chiang Mai is surely to give you a pleasant surprise. A majority of the tourists are oblivion to the charisma and flavors of traditional Northern-Thai cuisine and a trip to the restaurants of Chiang Mai will help you have a real taste.

The House by Ginger : A combination of a restaurant and a cafe not only gives you the perfect opportunity to enjoy some traditional Northern-Thai cuisine but also at the same time it allows you to enjoy some authentic Thai decor.
Words cannot describe how beautiful the interiors of the restaurant is as the hanging flower plants from the high ceilings give you a charming setting to have your lunch. Even the presentation of the foods are a delight to watch and you will be tempted to take a photo or two and put it on your Instagram account. The cocktails here are quite unique and they go well with the spicy Thai cuisine, the restaurant serves.
Tikky Cafe : Nestled at the very end of a quaint little street of Chiang Mai, this cafe is not short of its scenic and culinary appeal.
The cafe has nice table cloths and cushions which complement the overall decor of the hanging plants. The cafe does not even have proper walls thereby making it appear like a large greenhouse or a nursery. The menu is not very extensive as you will get traditional Northern-Thai cuisines. The steamed rice items are available from 60 Baht whilst there are various kinds of salads, noodles, and soups. Though the range of items are not much but for each of the items there are options for chicken, squid, pork, shrimp, and also vegetarian.
The Gallery : Located at the banks of the Ping River, The Gallery is a kind of a restaurant which will offer you a warm and comfortable sitting arrangements and relaxed decor.
The family run restaurant also sells slik and household items and there are separate patio sitting arrangements for the tourists to enjoy the riverside view. The traditional house made from solid teak-wood evokes a kind of cozy feeling as you can savor the brilliance of the garden outside. Plenty of flowering and leafy plants add to the beauty of the garden as the meny here is quite scrumptious. Traditional Northern-Thai cuisines are available here in plenty as you can ask them to make them less spicy in order to suit your palate.
Cat Cafe : Not so much for the food but very much for the unique appeal, the Cat Cafe of Chiang Mai makes into the list of top eateries of the city.
After Japan and China the Cat Cafe of Chiang Mai has gathered much attention and if you have never experienced it before then you are certainly up for a treat. Strictly suitable for animal lovers (especially cat lovers) this cafe evokes a very clean and decent appeal. Whilst some of the reviews suggest that the drinks are a bit overpriced but the overall experience is something to treasure. The wooden floor makes it comfortable for sitting and taking the pictures of the cute fur babies, who are pampered there day and night.
The Good View : The Good View restaurant does not only ensure a good view but also a good vibe at the same time.
This upbeat restaurant cum nightclub draws plenty of young and hip crowd as you will get a hint of the beach culture of Thailand here in the middle of the old town on the hills. The cocktail list in the bar is quite extensive as you can enjoy from a wide range of spicy finger food in offering. There is either live music or DJ on the stage as a group of young crowd comes every evening and dances here till night. Now if you are not looking for a wild night ahead then you can just grab a chair by the riverside and enjoy and exotic Thai cuisine whilst enjoying the beauty of the water.

Unlike Bangkok or some other parts of Thailand Chiang Mai's food scene is not influenced by the various cultures of the West and the East, but rather it is influenced mostly by its strong tribal food habits. Northern-Thai cuisines are less marketed compared to the coastal-Thai foods and Chiang Mai offers you the perfect opportunity to enjoy a classic Khantoke dinner with lots of spices and pickles. Then there is of course the famous Khao Soi which is the traditional dish of this part of Thailand. There is a lot of tangy soups and crispy fries anywhere you go in Chiang Mai.

Khao Soi: The chicken and egg soup with crispy fried egg noodles topping is the most famous dish in Chiang Mai.

Khanom Jeen/Khanom Chin: It is a thick coconut soup either made from chicken or from fish with sliced vegetable toppings.

Sai Oua: The spicey sauages with herbs and chili are found in spiral formations in many street food-stalls.

Flavored Sticky Rice: The northern-Thai tribes are rice eating people and wrapped in banana leaves you will get fruit-flavored sticky rice with egg custard.

Quail Eggs: Fried quail eggs with, coconut milk, fish or soya sauce can be found in many street-side food stalls of Chiang Mai.

The marketplaces of Chiang Mai evoke a special warm and fuzzy atmosphere. You will not face the hustle and bustle of a Bangkok market and instead you can shop in peace and comfort with lots of time in your hand. The markets of Chiang Mai are cozy and friendly with lots of village tribes selling their own hand-woven items with a smile on their faces. You will not find the crazy crowds of the beach markets or the vigorous bargaining of a city market at Chiang Mai. From souvenirs to handicraft items, from paintings to food stalls you will get all sorts of things to try out in exchange of few Bahts.

San Kamphaeng Road: The art-loving people of Chiang Mai have made their presence felt with the help of this marvelous art market.
Locally known as the "Handicraft Highway" this 10 kilometers stretch of road displays the brilliance of the artistic prowess showcased by the tribal people of Chiang Mai. From pottery to wood curving, silverware to silk products there are many variety of items sold in the stalls of San Kamphaeng Road. The street is especially famous for its collection of local pottery items known as the Celadon. With its green glitter the pottery items appear that they are made from Jade. Also try and stop by Louis Silverware shop and get mesmerized by the sheer beauty and elegance of the products.
Warorot Market : Nestled by the banks of the Ping River, the Warorot Market is open throughout the day. It is not a tourist market as such as you will find many locals gathering here to do shop
for their daily or monthly rations of food and grocery. The market has a upbeat vibe as the shoppers are enthusiastic and they do have a friendly and convincing tone. From vegetables, fruits, and meats to clothing, jewelry, and handicraft, you will find many sorts of stalls divided into zones in this big marketplace of Chiang Mai. The local Hill Tribes also set temporary stalls on the side-streets of the market where you will find some souvenirs at a cheaper price.
Night Bazaar : Perhaps the biggest and the most vibrant market of Chiang Mai is the Night Bazaar. Evident from its name this is a night market which is open each and every day (night)
of the year and a variety of items are being sold here on a regular basis. This marketplace is a bit more touristy than the other markets of Chiang Mai and it is likely that you will encounter some Western backpackers bargaining with the shoppers here over some handicraft or jewelry. The market has a huge array of stalls and it is definitely a massive gathering of shoppers selling items beautiful Thai lanterns with all its oriental charms, handicrafts made by the local Hill tribes, jewelry, and also a lot of replica designer items. The shoppers are up for a bargain and so do not give up without a haggle.
Weekend Market : Held on every Sunday, the Weekend Market of Chiang Mai is perhaps the most popular market amongst the tourists of Thailand and that too for good reasons.
Starting from the Thapae Gate the market runs the entire stretch of the Ratchadamnoen Road and its lined by handicraft stalls located on the both sides of the street. It is a kind of exhibition and sort as you can witness some artists making the handicrafts whilst sitting in the stalls. Some of them are so expert that they will carry on with their knitting, cutting, and weaving even whilst bargaining and selling you the goods. In front of the Buddhist temples, at the end of the road, there are also various food stalls selling you scrumptious northern-Thai foods.
Chiang Mai Gate Market : So far in the list we talked about the various souvenir and handicraft markets of Chiang Mai, for which the town itself is very famous.
However, no one can deny the pull of the Thai street food bazaars. Chiang Mai has its very own street food market selling all sorts of Northern-Thai delicacies-both crispy and spicy. Have a finger licking experience at the Chiang Mai Gate Market where you will get the spicy meat and basil dish locally known as the pad kra pow along with mango flavored sticky rice and coconut milk. Do not forget to order a smoothie from wonderful Mrs. Pa, the owner of the Pa's Smoothies. Just mention your choice of flavor and let her do the mixing because she is an absolute maestro. This food market is open throughout the week but in order to avoid the crowd you should go during the weekend.

The only currency accepted in Chiang Mai is the Thai Baht and you need to carry it plenty to savor all the authentic experiences in the region. The hilly old town of Chiang Mai is mostly cash dependent and only a few big establishment here will accept your international cards. There are plenty of FOREX counters in the hotels and the marketplaces of Chiang Mai, giving good exchange rates against Indian Rupee, and so you should be wise to make use of most of them during your visits. From a trip to the old shrines to the national park, a drink in a pub to a massage in a spa, and not to mention the stalls put up by the Hill Tribes, most of these people will accept Baht as the only medium of transaction. So, in order to have a truly authentic Northern-Thai experience make sure you have substantial amount of Thai Baht.

Special Tips

  • The visits to the temples, shrines, and museums will cost you around 100 to 500 Baht, depending on the kind of visit.
  • A ride on a tuk tuk will cost you around 40 Baht, whereas the taxis will cost around 90 to 100 Baht.
  • Dinners at fine dining venues will cost you around 280 to 300 Baht per person whilst the roadside shacks will offer you meals at around 30 to 40 Baht.
  • The waiters at the restaurants and the service boys at the hotels will also expect tips and that could cost you around 150 to 180 Bahts for the whole trip.
  • The handicraft items sold by the village tribes will cost you around 20 to 30 Baht.

There are two kinds of tourist visas which are available for Indian tourists, the latest being the Visa on Arrival. The Indian passport holders can apply for the Visa on Arrival at Thailand from any of the 32 Immigration checkpoints of the country, including the Chiangmai International Airport. Depending on the length of the queue the entire process can take a time between 10 minutes to an hour. The Visa on Arrival will entitle the Indian passenger to stay in Thailand at a stretch of 14 days. However, you need to download the visa application form and fill-it up before landing in the airport. For more information check the Immigration website of the Kingdom of Thailand.

Special Tips

Indian passport holders need to carry several critical documents in order to get the Visa on Arrival. Firstly, your Boarding Pass of your flight should be there with you along with your passport which should be valid for at least another 6 months. You also need to show a confirmed flight ticket thereby assuring your departure within the next 14 consecutive days of arrival at Chiang Mai. Carry at least 6 to 10 colored photographs (of pre-specified measurement) with you as you might need quite a few during the process of visa application. The airlines staff will also hand you over an Arrival-Departure card which you also need to fill-up before the application process starts.

Safety is rarely a concern in the hilly old town of Chiang Mai as the city is considered to be pretty safe. Very seldom there are occasions of purse-grabbing and pick-pocketing in the crowded areas of the city. Crimes against the tourists are even more rare in this part of Thailand as people are mostly friendly and honest. Unlike other parts of Thailand there are less incidents of scams and treachery. However, the people of Chiang Mai are very sensitive towards their culture and proud of their heritage. You need to be careful whilst talking with them about their customs and belief. Never ridicule or mock their core values as that might turn them a bit aggressive.

  • Police and General Emergency: 191
  • Medical Emergency: 1669
  • Fire: 199
  • Tourist Police: 1155

Entertainment & Event

The traditional customs of the Hill Tribes and the lush green forests give you an authentic experience in Chiang Mai.

  • Flora and Fauna

    Chiang Mai with all its national forests and lush green hill valleys is rich in its flora and fauna. The upper slopes of the hill is often covered in mist and hence it creates the perfect atmosphere for the growth of lichen, epiphytes, and moss. There are also a huge number of orchids blooming in that area. Apart from that there are also a substantial number of hardwood timber growing in the lower slopes of the hills and dense forestation also cover the banks of the lakes and the river. The thick forestland of Chiang Mai is a home to more than 385 different species of birds. This is more than any other natural habitats of Thailand.

    You can catch a glimpse of the green-tailed sunbirds, the vibrant yellow-chested tits, and also some blue niltavas, if you are really lucky. A trail down the national park will surely allow you to see the birds but even more than that you are bound to witness some jungle mammals here in Chaing Mai. The mountainous forest is the home to Assamese macaques along with plenty of monkeys, gibbons, flying squirrel and Indian civet cats. Larger mammals like deer and elephants are also found in plenty in Chiang Mai.

  • Festivals

    The festivals of Chiang Mai have a unique tribal essence as the importance of community is well-established through their customs and practice. For instance the Loi Krathong Festival is celebrated by the people of Chiang Mai and as a tourist you can also witness its vibrant colors and rituals. Krathong is a basket like structure with a candle sitting at the middle of it. Celebrated on the 12th lunar month the people of Chiang Mai float the baskets on the water and watch them cruise through the canals. People also fly Chinese sky-lanterns and decorate the trees with lights and ribbons.

    Along with Loi Krathong the people Chiang Mai also celebrates the Thai festival of Songkran when the entire town goes into a party mode. The summer festival which marks the begining of the Thai lunar calendar is celebrated for a week in Chiang Mai. You will literally drench yourself in the wild celebrations as people keep on throwing water at each other, on the streets. Unless someone has locked himself in the rooms, you are bound to get wet the happy vibes of Songkran.

  • Culture

    Chiang Mai's culture is mostly untouched by the cultures of other countries like China, Singapore, or India and that is why it still maintains its unique form with age-old practices and mind-boggling rituals. Rich in history and heritage the people of Chiang Mai has a strong urge to latch on to their beliefs and practices and that has made them earn the respect of the tourists. The people of the town along with many hill tribes scattered around the borders of Chiang Mai are ver connected to the land and forestation of this place.

    All the tribes of Chiang Mai show a close affinity towards forming a closely-knitted community and family structure. They focus on the simple pleasures of lives and their in-depth knowledge about their history and ecology makes them interesting to talk to. As a tourist you should not miss out on the opportunity of talking to a village tribe of Chiang Mai as you are bound to gather some unique knowledge.